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Episode 6: Songs, (alleged) spies, and the curious case of Wang Shujun

“It’s go time!” says Amy as she tries her best impression of Eugene to start off the show.

Podcast Free Asia

We answered our first listener comment from a youtube user who took issue with our account of an Asia Fact Check Lab story about U.S. President Jimmy Carter discussing the One China policy, which recognizes China but only acknowledges China’s stance on Taiwan. This was way back in episode 1! We welcome all feedback, even negative feedback… and of course, we made our rebuttal.

The Rundown

This episode’s rundown was music themed!

The Vietnamese Service reported about Vietnamese pop singer Dam Vinh Hung, who got in hot water for wearing a military-themed costume accentuated with medals that looked like those issued by the South Vietnamese during the Vietnam War, the faction that lost and was considered the enemy of the faction that won and set up the current government. Hung revealed that the medal in question had the words “HIGH QUALITY GARMENT” on it and therefore was obviously not a replica of any South Vietnamese medal, but another medal he wore said “Marine Semper Fi,” which is the motto of the U.S. Marines. Whoops. Hung did however say that he would never wear this costume again, so as not to offend anyone.

The Korean Service reported about a new music video in North Korea that praises leader Kim Jong Un as the country’s “Friendly Father.” 

Eugene revealed that he is a stan of the vocalist Kim Ryu Kyong, even if she is singing an over the top propaganda song. The video is also over the top with so many dolled-up apparently average North Koreans singing Kim’s praises that it has entertainment value for reasons its makers perhaps did not anticipate. Another interesting aspect of the video is that it contains some expensive musical instruments and equipment that may be violations of sanctions. So it is possible that part of the purpose of this video is for North Korea to thumb its nose at the world, showing that it can get around sanctions.

How It’s Made

We talked to Tara McKelvey and Jane Tang from RFA’s Investigative team about a their report on Wang Shujun, a pro-democracy activist from New York who is accused of spying for China. Wang allegedly met with Chinese intelligence agents and passed them information about Chinese dissidents located in the U.S. Through the discussion we learn that Wang is a very interesting character and that this case could serve as a precedent for other so-called “disposable assets” who may have been unwittingly serving as spies, possibly without their own knowledge.